Trotsky - Tragic Hero Debate

Topics: Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik, Soviet Union Pages: 4 (1180 words) Published: August 5, 2013

With particular reference to the quotation below and the views of at least TWO historians, evaluate Trotsky’s role in the Soviet Union in the period 1896-1940.

The name “Leon Trotsky” still causes great debate; amongst sympathisers and condemners alike. However, his significant role in the establishment of the Bolshevik Communist Government and effective theoretical practices cannot be denied. According to Ronald Aaronson, both a critical and sympathetic interpreter of Trotsky, his influence meant that he “called upon the very force that destroyed him”, and that his strengths were inextricably linked to his weaknesses. In this quote, he is referring to the fact that Trotsky’s efforts in his power struggle with Stalin contributed to his death, and the deaths of many others. He is also saying that Trotsky’s political success was stifled by his own passion and intellect. In order to evaluate these ideas about Trotsky’s role in the Soviet Union, we must investigate the effect of his revolutionary practices, theoretical teachings, government work and how the views of alternative historians support or undermine Aaronson’s view.

Let us examine the way Trotsky’s intellect and passion ensured he played a significant in the Soviet Union in 1869-1940 but simultaneously defeated him. Aaronson claims that, like a tragic hero, “Trotsky’s strengths were inseperable from his weaknesses”. The accuracy of this claim is supported by many of Trotsky’s revolutionary actions and writings.

We first see Trotsky’s intellect and passion at the young age of 18. In 1897 he helped establish the South Russian Worker’s Union in Nikolayev. Aaronson describes him as ‘confidently’ leading the union. However, it is this intellect and self-assurance in his ideals that meant he was isolated for so many years. After the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party in 1903, he sided with neither the Bolsheviks nor the Mensheviks and wrote for both sides....
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